2012 flashback: Steve-O interview

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed November 23, 2012

I am meeting Steve-O for lunch on Thursday, December 3, 2015. He will be performing at the Atlanta Improv December 3 to 5 (tickets here) and will talk about his pending arrest for a stunt he did at Seaworld in San Diego. He's now sober and a vegan. I'm looking forward to meeting him. Three years ago, I spoke with him by phone about his short-lived truTV show "Killer Karaoke."

Here is what I wrote in November, 2012:

I'm a karaoke addict. So any time I see a show with that word in it, I'm willing to give it a look.

I quickly fell in love with TruTV's "Killer Karaoke," which debuts tonight. It's no music show in the traditional sense. Ryan Seacrest or Carson Daly are not the hosts. Britney Spears is not judging them. The judge is the studio audience. And the host? Steve-O of "Jackass" fame.

The show, which is getting an eight-episode test run, is more in the spirit of "Fear Factor" on laughing gas. The basic premise: contestants are "tortured" in various ways while singing. Two people perform and the audience decides which one they liked better. The winners over three rounds then compete for up to $10,000 in the final challenge.

In an episode I sampled, a woman is hoisted, then dipped into a cold pool packed with snakes while crooning A-Ha's "Take On Me." Another contestant has to serve Steve-O a meal as a waiter while being randomly shocked. Another man has to keep singing while getting hot waxed all over his body, as in "40-Year-Old Virgin."

A sampler on YouTube has already drawn 4 million page views of another woman dropped into a pool of snakes singing "Redneck Woman":

Yes, it's as silly and fun as it sounds. And Steve-O's joyous facial expressions and commentary help move the show along.

In an interview earlier this month, Steve-O said he loves the show but admits it's "a bit unnatural" to not be the one doing the stunts. At the same time, "I could safely say I would hate to do a lot of it. I'm not a big fan of snakes, for instance. I would be decidedly upset." And if anything, "I get to stay faithful to my brand, my heritage."

And while there is a cash prize at the end of an episode, Steve-O said, "it's safe to say nobody is going to get a record deal out of this."

Shockingly, he has nothing against regular singing shows. "My father and stepmom watch 'The X Factor,' " he noted. "I watched the finale of the first season. I got a bit pretty choked up. I found it it to be quite touching."

"Killer Karaoke" is not an American idea. The Brits had a version of this on TV ("Sing If You Can") and variations air all over the world.

Natalka Znak, CEO of production company Zodiak USA (which also produces two other hit TruTV shows "Lizard Lick Towing" and "Hardcore Pawn") and an executive producer for "Killer Karaoke," said that they worked hard to ensure "Killer Karaoke" is plain funny. It is a good companion piece to, say, "Wipeout," a network show TruTV picked up.

She said she didn't even originally pitch the show to TruTV, thinking they'd never try a singing show. But a TruTV saw the pitch sticking out of her bag while she was throwing out other ideas. "He loved it," she said.

All the contestants are decent singers. Curiously, she said everyone knew up front what the show was about but when Steve-O was named host, a few dropped out. "They thought it was going to be rougher with him around," she said.

Steve-O has been sober for four years, something Znak said has made a big difference. "He's absolutely delightful and professional," she said. "I don't think he'd mind me saying that I worked with him on another reality show a few years ago before he went into rehab and he was impossible to work with."

He said he is now "a responsible character. I'll always be a goofball. It I was still getting loaded, I doubt I'd be alive. If I still were, I wouldn't be doing anything productive."

He said he spent a lot of off-camera time messing around with the audience and contestants, doing skateboarding and circus tricks to kill time. Unlike regular game shows, this one took time because of the stunts involved. In fact, it took two weeks to do eight episodes.

Steve-O is focusing on his stand-up comedy act he's been honing for two years. He has yet to land in Atlanta, though.


"Killer Karaoke," 9 p.m. Fridays, TruTV

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.